Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More Carbon Credit Fallacies

It's OK if rich people like Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio burn through carbon like there's no tomorrow. After all, they're offsetting their global warming impacts by screaming "There's no tomorrow!" ... and they're buying carbon credits.

Many of those credits are purchased through programs that plant trees because trees are, you know, the lungs of the planet. Actually, they're more the kidneys if you go with the Greenie metaphore, since they're supposed to clean the air (like kidneys), not convert it to oxygen in the blood (like lungs). But who wants to support the Earth's Kidneys? Ick. But I digress.

There's just one little, teensy weensy problem with the tree-planting carbon credits Al, Leo and their herds of ilk are purchasing: They could, uh, make global warming worse, according to a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences. Reports Discovery Channel:

April 10, 2007 — Planting new trees in snow-covered northern regions may actually contribute to global warming as they have the counter-effect of tropical forests, according to a study out Monday.

While rainforests help cool the planet by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing clouds that reflect sunlight, the dark canopy of Canadian, Scandinavian and Siberian forests catches sunrays that would be reflected back to space by the snow, the study said.

The study, published Monday in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that reforestation projects in the tropics would help mitigate global warming, but such projects would be "counterproductive" in high latitudes.

In mid-latitude locations like the United States and most of Europe, more trees would only create marginal benefits for climate change, the researchers said.

Oops. It looks like all those "let's plant a million trees!" efforts across America aren't going to give their supporters as many greenie credits for their green as they thought.

I've heard ugly rumors that the global warming debate is over. So can we debate a bit on this theme: Is human understanding of complex natural systems sufficient for us to glibly propose solutions, or do we run the risk of gumming up the works in the name of solutions?

I'll argue the latter.

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